I was pleasantly surprised by this movie. My initial reaction from seeing the poster of this film was that I thought it was made back in the early 90s because of the character art style, but it was made in 2012. From the visuals to the story, everything about this movie is really captivating!
Even after reading the quick description of this film, I still wasn’t sure what it was about until I actually finished watching it. The movie is set in the Edo period of Japan where a witch hunt for Fuses, who are half human and half beast, is taking place. A girl, honed in hunting from living in the mountains, moves to the city to live with her brother who then convinces her to hunt Fuses with him. She ends up befriending a Fuse without knowing his true identity, complicating the matter further. Well, that’s the basis of the story.
This movie is complex, and writing about it is not a piece of cake either. Despite of how beautiful it is, my heart felt heavy as I watched the story unfold. There were visual strategies used to emphasize certain issues that this film brings up such as the vibrancy in Yoshiwara, which is basically the red lights district, in contrast to the impure acts that occur within it . The particular scenes that bothered me were how the prostitutes were displayed in cage like structures conveying their loss of freedom. And another one was a scene with a dazed-looking child sitting behind railings which also evokes the image of being caged. From this, we can assume that the young girl is also a prostitute. Yoshiwara just had a somber air about it despite the vibrant and stunning visuals used to depict it. I’m starting to sound like I’m writing a paper for my film class so I’ll stop being too analytical here or I’m going end up writing an essay, but I just want to mention how there are a lot of significance in the visuals of this film and you have to think about it to fully appreciate this movie.
Another note on the visuals is that at first I found it a little bit odd because of how heterogeneous the film looked. There was a stark contrast in the art between the background and the characters, where the former looks very defined and realistic (not sure if it’s CG, but it kind of looks it) compared to the latter which is very simple and looks almost like the typical old anime character style. Not that I didn’t like it, in actuality, I thought it complemented the story and emphasized on the beauty of the background, and you won’t find me complaining when Shino is on the screen. Which reminds me, I actually watched this movie right after Hotarubi no Mori e, and it was a funny coincidence that both the male leads are wearing identical masks and had a similarity with their appearance. Anyways, my last comment about the visuals is that this film definitely had a different style to it which was refreshing to see and it was also very pleasing to the eyes.
The story itself is very compelling. Although, I have to note on the confrontation between the Shogun and Shino, which was pretty abrupt and a bit disappointing. Honestly, I didn’t really get what was up with the Shogun. His role was kind of ambiguous. But other than that, everything was pretty clear. In my opinion, this film depicted a realistic ambience of Edo which really added to the narrative. I liked the romantic development between Shino and Hamaji, although I was still left unsatisfied in the end. I mean, the ending could have totally taken a better route.
I really don’t know how I ended up watching a bittersweet movie after just finishing one, but I don’t regret it because this movie was worth the sadness. I definitely recommend!